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Monday, September 13, 2010

Big Review Incoming... Dragon Age Origins and Awakening

Hello fellow readers.  Sorry for the long delay of posts, but it took me quite some time to beat Dragon Age Origins and its expansion, Awakening.   This was mainly because I heard that this game was amazing. However, this was ultimately a let down.  This is partially due to my initially high expectation of the game and the fact that I just "finished" playing probably the best game to come out within the last 4 years.

Click here to 'Read More" for the full review.
Several things made this game quite underwhelming for me; the mediocre plot, less than stellar combat, generally uninteresting characters and dialogue with a few exceptions, gameplay limitations and the lack of immersion for the game. However, I'm not saying that this game is horrible or completely worthless, just that it doesn't deserve the universal praise that this game seems to be garnering from game critics since the game is at best just "okay".  Then again, most professional game critics give most AAA games generally supersaturated scores to begin with.  Now, time for the analysis.

The thing about the story is that essentially, the entire story can be summed up in one sentence; a horrible evil came to destroy the world, but your hero goes to create an army to destroy said evil.  That's it.  That is all the game's story, no real plot changes, nothing unique about it and no invested interest for the game.  It's similar to Lord of the Rings where you know essentially what is going to happen, but unlike LotR, the journey is quite boring. There are some events that are sometimes interesting, but the overall experience could not make up for the few cool events.

It wasn't just the uninspired story that caused the game to be somewhat bland, it was also the characters.  Generally, all the characters in the game were very uninteresting and weren't memorable at all.  There are a few exceptions but coming from a company that has created many, many great stories and characters, it seems inconceivable that this game lacks so much in that department.  However, the expansion characters are much better, and even the story seemed better (up until the very disappointing ending), but what totally killed it is the lack of continuity with the original game.  Many things didn't quite make sense from the original game and felt more like a big DLC instead of a true expansion.

What created probably the biggest gap of immersion was the lack of a voice for the main character and the only mediocre voice acting from virtually all the characters in the game.  The actual dialogue was okay (uninspired, but okay), but  the voice acting just kept me from being pulled into the game.  This combined with uninteresting story and characters really caused me to not enjoy this game as much as how much praise it received.

Of course, if a game doesn't have a really good story, narrative or immersion, it can be redeemed by amazing gameplay mechanics.  However, the gameplay is only mediocre at best.  The combat is very, very similar to that of KotoR, which was a very fine game, but what essentially breaks the game is the lack of diversity in the type of character you can build and a UI that doesn't take into account the HUGE amount of skills you can potentially learn.  For example, with a mage character, the amount of skills that you can potentially learn can and will exceed the GUI's capability for you to access them without pausing the game and going into your skill menu screen just to see it.

Another issue is that you'll be pausing the game more than you'll like since at harder difficulties; the game essentially becomes a turn-based isometric strategy game.  Although I do like turned based isometric style games, what really made this an issue is that you can only control 4 people at a time.  Many games do limit how many people you can control at a time, but it hurts especially for this game.  The UI and game mechanics felt like it was designed to control a vast amount of units at a time.

Overall, I do not recommend this game since there are much better games out there, but if you are really starved for a standard fantasy game and played through Elder Scrolls a billion times already, then this won't be that bad of a choice.  Hopefully, Dragon Age 2 will be a much better game.

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